IU Professor to receive $100,000 prize

August 07, 2001

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Richard Shiffrin, director of the nationally-recognized Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University and the Luther Dana Waterman professor of psychology, will receive the prestigious David E. Rumelhart Prize for outstanding contributions to human cognition, which includes the fields of memory, learning and perception.

The prize, presented by the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation and Cognitive Science Society, is designated for the "formal analysis of cognition" in honor of Professor Rumelhart, who was an international leader in developing mathematical and computer simulation models. The announcement was made Friday (Aug. 3) at the society's annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Shiffrin will receive the $100,000 award - considered as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in cognitive science - and present the prize lecture at the August 2002 meeting of the Cognitive Science Society at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

IU President Myles Brand said, "Dr. Shiffrin has been instrumental in the development of Indiana University's reputation as a leader in the areas of cognitive science and informatics. He is an outstanding educator and researcher. I am proud and pleased that his contributions to his field have received international notice. He is an excellent representative of the distinction of our faculty here at IU."

Professor James McClelland of Carnegie Mellon University, chair of the prize selection committee, said Shiffrin's work in human memory "represents a progression similar to the best theories seen in any branch of science." Shiffrin's findings in the relationships of short- to long-term memory "remain one of the most cited works in the entire field of psychology."

Shiffrin has an international reputation in the field of human cognition. He is best known for his development of explicit computer and mathematical models of human memory, for which he is being awarded the Rumelhart Prize.

His work lays out basic and recognized theories of cognition, which have important potential implications for learning, development of memory, failures of memory and diseases of memory. He also is recognized for his analysis of skill development. His theory describes how tasks are first accomplished through difficult, attention-demanding processes. As learning proceeds, these attention-demanding processes are replaced by automatic ones that require little thought or effort.

Shiffrin describes his expertise as developing "mathematical and computer simulation models of memory, learning, retrieval, attention, limited capacity automatism and perception." In recent years, his focus has been on memory retrieval models to explain storage and retrieval not only of recent events, but of general knowledge and the relation between the two.

The IU professor, a former Guggenheim Fellow, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received the Howard Crosby Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists and a MERIT from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Shiffrin has served as editor of The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition and as a member of the governing boards of several scientific societies. He has taught at IU since 1968, during which time he has trained a large number of scientists, many of whom have gone on to become major figures in the field of cognitive science, including Wilson Geisler at the University of Texas, Walter Schneider at the University of Pittsburgh, Jeroen Raaijmakers of the University of Amsterdam and Susan Dumais of Microsoft Corp.

The David E. Rumelhart Prize was established in August 2000; Shiffrin is the second recipient. It is named after a leading pioneer in cognitive science, which includes psychology, computer science and linguistics.

Professor Rumelhart is famous for the development of computer models that mimic the way the brain carries out such processes as memory and learning. This also is the field in which Shiffrin excels. He obtained his doctorate from Stanford University the year after Rumelhart received his doctorate from the same program at Stanford.

A native of New Haven, Conn., Shiffrin received a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from Yale University in 1964 and a doctorate from Stanford in 1968. He and his wife, Judy, have four children, three daughters, Eva, Rachel and Alissa; and a son, Aaron.
EDITORS: An announcement from the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation and Cognitive Science Society accompanies this release.

Indiana University

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